My List of 18 Best YA Books I’ve Read in 2018

It’s been a GREAT year for YA books!! I’ve read so many that were amazing, and I now have the daunting task of creating a list of the best.  The hardest part? Limiting it to eighteen (oh, the agony!!) But in no particular order here are my top picks in nine different genres I read based on recommendations and personal  choice, with a short one sentence review for each book, a recommendation for exceptional audiobooks, and a link to Goodreads.  Most of them are 2018, but there are a few exceptions for titles I missed in very recent years (haven’t we all done that? ūüôā

  1. The Faithful Spy: Deitrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix. Abrams, 2018.  Graphic Novel/Biographical Narrative NF.  The reader gets to see the other side of WW II from the perspective of those Germans who wanted to defy Hitler with their will, solidarity, and faith in good that led to three almost successful attempts to end his reign of terror and to stop the war.

  2. Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham.  Little, Brown, 2017.  Historical Fiction.  This book places the reader in one place (Tulsa, Oklahoma) but at two very different times and reveals the horror and destruction prejudice and bias can do to tear apart relationships and families.  **exceptional audiobook booktrailer
  3. Neverworld Wake by Mariah Pessl.  2018, Delacorte Press. Fantasy Fiction/New Adult.  Five friends venture into a world that is warped by time and their living dreams, and their actions will impact their future where only one will survive based on the decisions of them all.  booktrailer
  4. Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton.¬† 2017, Random House.¬† Realistic Fiction.¬† The novel chronicles Adam’s struggle with schizophrenia along with a fresh start in a new high school, and with the help of a new drug, he begins to see improvement in his life until the drug begins to fail… **exceptional audiobook
  5. Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer.¬† 2018, Houghton Mifflin.¬† Fantasy/Horror.¬†¬†In Nita’s world, those with supernatural powers are curious to her while her mother knows they’re more valuable dead than alive and when the two clash over the next victim, Nita finds herself sold on the black market as a commodity with her life at stake.¬†¬†
  6. 24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling.¬† 2018, Sterling Children’s Books.¬† Realistic Fiction/Mystery.¬† Gus lives in Nowhere, Arizona (the name says it all) and has to dodge the local bully and hide a secret crush until a date with a cholla cactus leads him on an impossible journey to make his life bully-free with a possibility of romance.¬†¬†
  7. Impossibility of Us Katy Upperman.¬† 2018, Swoon Reads.¬† Romance.¬† After her brother’s death serving in Afghanistan, Elise is adjusting to a new life when she meets Mati and where she also realizes she struggles with the prejudice her family has against him because of his Afghanistani heritage and culture and her love for him.¬†¬†
  8. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.  2018, Delacorte Press.  Fantasy.  Theodosia saw the fall of her country to a brutal dictator and is now forced to live in the castle as a tortuous example of triumph until she is approached as the last hope of their people, where she will have to make a decision of life and death for them and her.  **exceptional  audiobook  booktrailer
  9. Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.¬† 2018, Simon and Schuster.¬† Survival Fiction.¬†¬†Southern California has reached Tap Out, where there is no more available water for the region and when Alyssa’s parents disappear trying to find water, she must navigate herself and others through danger from desperation and drought to survive.¬†¬†
  10. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family in Crisis by J.D. Vance.  2016, Harper.  Biography/Narrative NF.  The 34 year-old author writes about his childhood and the struggles of the poor white working class culture he grew up in where generational poverty and abuse navigated his decisions and relationships, which ultimately molded his life and success as a lawyer.  **exceptional audiobook   
  11. Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo. 2018, HarperTeen.  Realistic Fiction/Novel in Verse.  Xiomara lives in the Bronx with  her twin brother in a very traditional family with strict expectations and with her growing sense of identity and physicality, which she chronicles in her poetry journal, a clash between both her personal and traditional worlds tears both apart. booktrailer 
  12. I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman.¬† 2018, Penguin Teen.¬† Realistic Fiction.¬† In one single day, three teens are struggling with life that include a personal passion turned into a parent’s passion, the love of a boy, and the loss of a father, and they find themselves at the same place in Central Park where their stories are told and they help each other find the beginning of the paths they choose.¬†¬†booktrailer
  13. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu. 2018, First Second. Biographies/Narrative NF Graphic Novel.  The author details the lives who brazen women (gasp!) that impacted history, but most importantly, about women whose lives are not nearly as spoken and written about as they should be and includes stellar ladies like Peggy Guggenheim, Agnodice, and Nzinga, to name a few.  
  14. Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. 2018, Roaring Brook Press.¬† Narrative Biography/Graphic Novel.¬† This beautifully illustrated GN traces Mary Shelley’s life along with the joy, tragedies and very complicated relationships that helped her create one of the most recognized monsters of her and our time and opens up the reader’s awareness of how Frankenstein parallels a woman whose personal strength ran deep.
  15. All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson.  2108, Razorbill.  Realistic Fiction.  When a bridge collapses in Boston, four teens nervously sit in the hospital waiting room to find out if their sister, parents, and loved one survived and during the time spent waiting, their stories come out about the impact of those who hopefully survived the bridge collapse made in their lives.                           
  16. Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics.¬† 2015 Harlequin Teen.¬† Horror.¬† Amanda’s world changes when she finds her family is moving to the prairie to escape harsh winters, only to find herself living the tales of nightmarish horrors she’s heard about the prairie, all while trying to protect her siblings and her hidden pregnancy. **exceptional audiobook
  17. The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares.¬† 2017, Delacorte Press.¬† Realistic Fiction/New Adult.¬† Every family has dysfunction, and this one is no different except that the siblings on both sides continue to have a strong bond beyond their parents’ divorce, the joy of an impending wedding celebration and the loss of life, all in a summer cottage and small town everyone grew up sharing.¬†¬†
  18. Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricial Hruby Powell.¬† 2017, Chronicle Books.¬† Historical Fiction.¬† Told in two strong alternating voices, this novel brings to life the civil rights case for mixed marriage in a time when segregation still reared it’s ugly head, and where readers in today’s world can see the implications of this landmark decision in the United States today.¬† **exceptional audiobook

A Heapin’ Helping of Non-Fiction

Living out in the country, there were a few fun things to do during the summer and one of them was to read.  We had all sorts of books, but I remember in particular a biography of the Red Baron, (Manfred von Richthofen, not the pizza) and became intrigued with non-fiction.

My love for non-fiction has never been quenched and I still read it and love it.  But what has changed in the format of non-fiction.  It’s more narrative and comes in hardcopy or graphic novel.  It comes as stand alones or in series.  It’s also disguised as great fiction too!

So here’s a list of non-fiction you should dive into this summer….so worth it (and you’ll learn a lot in the process!)

brazen

Brazen by Penelope Bagieu:  This is a great book that takes a unique approach to women in leadership roles.  Some you may have heard of, others perhaps not.  The author goes into details about women from history (Nzinga and Agnodice to name a few) to current (Betty Davis (the singer, not the actress) and Mae Jemison) to well-known names

(Peggy Gugenheim and Nellie Bly)If only all of the women

who kicked booty throughout history could have been added…

mary's monster

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge: While this is a

fictional account in novel in verse AND graphic

novel, this book is a must read.  Filled with beautiful images, that author takes the reader down a long, hard road along with Mary Shelley, who wanted to live a beautiful life in love but ended up being emotionally torn and pulled by the relationships she created.  Then along came her monster….

Devils highway

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea:  I actually stumbled on this read through the Audiosync Summer reading series and boy, am I glad I did.  This is considered an adult non-fiction book, but definitely is on the forefront of current social issues in the US and one teens can enjoy.  The reader goes on a journey from Mexico to the US with a coyote, who smuggles over 20 men into the Arizona dessert…and where few come out alive.  The perspective is layered and the facts can be grim and difficult…altogether a fascinating read.

this is really

This is Really Happening by Erin Chack: This is an autobiography, but not just any autbiography.  This is one written by someone people may or may not know or follow, but who works for an online site most everyone has heard about:  Buzzfeed.  You have to be a unique writer to capture the attention of millions, and this is just what Erin has done.  She takes us through her life from before middle school to her life now and all of its ups and downs, from boyfriends to marriage, to cancer and friendship, all with that unique and humorous prose Buzzfeed is known for.  Short and sweet, a great read for teens and adults.

heart were young

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner: I really should look up to see if Cornelia and her friend Emily are still alive, but I was sucked into their story of their escapades of the 1920s.  What is so unique about this book is that is was written over 76 years ago and details teenaged girls wanting the same independence, fun, and relationships teens want today.  Just another time period that can’t be “faked.”  You’re sitting front and center in this book to experience their lives unfold in very different but similar ways.  Great companion book to The Great Gatsby!

Books in the Digital Age

It’s so interesting to see how books have transformed in the last 30 years.¬† Some have come and gone, but one thing has remained true – reading will always be essential and important for pleasure and academic pursuit.
With technology becoming more sophisticated, the ways people approach reading has also changed.  Here are a few ways books are transforming in the digital age:

Books as movies – There has always been books to movies (although some of them stray (far) from the original while others remain true) but it goes without saying this is one popular way people are exposed to books.¬† After digging around, I found a book to movie that’s been around for over 119 years!

Today, people can’t wait to see Ready Player One or one of the many other coming out in 2018.¬† Is this another way of reading with your eyes?¬† Not sure, but it goes to show that really well-written books will always tell a good story, whether on screen or in a book.

Capture321Books as audio –¬†Books have been recorded on records (I still have the copy of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and they have continued to transform into different formats such as cassette tapes, CD’s, and streaming¬† downloadable audio.¬† With the adaptability of audiobooks today (and the quality!!! WOW!) readers can now experience books in a completely different way.¬† This video has two professors from Sam Houston State (Rose Brock and Karin Perry) discussing the importance and transformational impact audiobooks has (as well as some great suggestions!)

Books as Digital e-books:¬†¬†These have been around for quite awhile, and when they were first introduced, they came in fast and furious.¬† Years later, and libraries and individuals continued to purchase them for readers.¬† Some excellent qualities of e-books is that they have greater maneuverability than traditional books through downloading.¬† Recently, I’ve seen a change in e-books.¬† For the first time, I read something called “Kindle in Motion.”¬† It takes the regular e-book but adds animation and video into the book so the reader has a more sensory experience while reading.¬† Here’s the current list of Kindle in Motion books¬†¬†(I read Hell’s Princess in one day and LOVED the animation…even the pages looked old through graphics!)

It’ll be interesting to see where the future takes readers and books.¬† Wherever it does, the best part of the transformation is creating new readers through curiosity (is the movie better than the book or vice versa?); sustaining current readers through digital evolution; and tantalizing readers through new and innovative (and as yet, unseen) ways.

The Sound and the Fury: My Experiences with Audiobooks

I absolutely LOVE to read….and read….and so on (you get it) and with that mindset, I didn’t really delve much into audiobooks because I always had my book in hand.  I also felt the same way about

e-books.  I foolishly considered myself a purist who would choose hardcopy over any other format.

Well, I have since changed that mindset!

Time is different for me now and in order to keep up with the massive amounts of titles I’d love to read, I had to rethink my plan.  One day I had a three hour drive ahead of me with nothing to do.  I’m one of those people who don’t travel with the radio on, preferring instead, peace and quiet.  The meeting I had to go to was one where all of the reading lists for the Texas Library Association was convening and I lamented about the fact that I had less time than ever to read.  One librarian from Katy ISD (Robin Cashman) and the other from San Antonio (Dana Hutchins) suggested audiobooks.  I’ll admit, I did the whole “OK, I will” without really going to, but she then started setting me up with an account and watching me download the books.

On the way home, I listened to my very first audiobook….WOWOWOWOWOW!!

It was one of those HUGE new Stephen King books (Sleeping Beauties) and three hours wasn’t going to cut it.  So I spent the rest of that week when I was walking, driving, getting ready in the morning, etc to “read with my ears.”

And I was hooked.

What makes them such a draw is that the delivery by those reading the books is above amazing.  They put emotion, character, voice into it and constantly changed they own syncopation and tenor to match other characters in the book.  It really was like listening to their conversations or allowing them to open up to me.  The only comparison I could possibly make is that instead of being visually stunning, they were auditorally (yes, my own made up word) resounding.

Since then in the last month I have “read” six other audiobooks and HIGHLY recommend you “read” them too!

Mary Addison is in a group home, complete with ankle bracelet.  She’s been that way for a few years now.  Why?  Because at nine years old, Mary killed a baby.  Now a teenager, Mary wants out, but public opinion has already condemned her as a baby killer.  Can she ever outrun that reputation?

Mary Addision is a baby killer….allegedly.

This urban fiction novel packs a punch up until the very end for anyone listening to this.  Although this is about Mary, the listener will also get caught up in the lives of the other girls in the home, what brought them there and the hope or hopelessness they face.  9-12th grade.

Sebastian’s summer isn’t going the way he thought it would.  His best friend isn’t around and his mother is pressuring him to get a job.  He realizes he does need something to distract him, especially when he can’t forget what happened when he picked up a gun, which makes him spiral ever downward into depression and dark thoughts.  But then Aneesa moves in and his life begins to turn around.  Too late or just in time?

Readers will get caught up in the past and present and find themselves on a roller coaster ride of Sebastian’s life in this realistic fiction novel.  9-12th grade.

Nix has spent her life on the high seas, searching for treasure, adventure and old maps.  With each map her father finds, the ship sails through time and space to travel back to that time.  Nix has been to ancient Rome and Chine to modern day New York City and Hawaii in the 19th century.  But it’s one map her father is obsessed with…one that could completely change or erase Nix.  And when it’s found, she has to make a difficult decision and suffer loss.

Adventure fantasy at its finest, readers will be transformed along with the narrator’s voice of Nix and her other shipmates.  7th-12th grades

Breakfast Club meets Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in this new mystery novel.  Five teens are in after school detention.  The brain, Bronwyn; the beauty, Addy; the jock, Cooper; the criminal, Nate; and Simon the outcast.  But at the end of detention, Simon is dead and the other four are now murder suspects.  Who did it and why will drive the reader but the motive for it will push the reader over the edge.

This relies on four different narrators who bring to life not only the characters, but the story behind each one, including personal lives and secrets.  9-12th grade.

These tales will delight and enthrall readers who enjoy listening to fantastical creatures and peculiar people.  Made up as a sort of fairy tale-like anthology, readers will meet all types of people including a man who turns into an island; the first person who can transform into a bird; people who can grow their limbs back over and over and lonely giants, each tale is a mixture or whimsy and wonder with a little horror mixed in.

If you know the origins of fairy tales, this book will delight you with the morals each tale has in its own dark and delightful way.  7th-12th grade.

Reminiscent of fairy tales, this novel is about two very different girls.  Mina is beautiful and fragile-looking, but is far from it.  Living with a glass heart, she is able to manipulate glass and mirrors to make her way to the throne.  Lynet is the replica of her mother, the dead queen and is constantly surrounded by the king’s protectiveness for his only daughter.  Ever the daredevil, little does she know the power she wields on her own that far surpasses what she can do.

A little Snow White, a little Rapunzel, this fantasy novel will delight readers of the genre, especially when they heard two different voices in alternating chapters recall events through completely different lenses.  7th-12th grade.

Here are reasons why audiobooks should be in the library collection:

1. There are just some students who don’t like to “read” so give them an option

2. Some people like to listen and read at the same time (great for struggling readers)

3. Long road trips by bus for extra-curricular (just sayin’)

4. These are great examples of prose and poetry for UIL events

5. Use snippets of the books during a booktalk.  Let the characters talk to the kids instead

6. They may be more expensive but the library owns them for perpetuity!

7. Comes in many different options from playaways to digital to CD so technology doesn’t have to be a barrier

SO…if you were like me, then yes, you should definitely try it at least once.  But beware, you’ll get hooked!

Happy reading (with both your eyes and ears!)